What we did last summer — the ODUNDE Festival (June 8 – 12, 2022) aka the biggest African American street fair in the world.
By Eats4Beats: Black Foodie x Black Artist x Black Experiences
As culinary and lifestyle content creators, we have the pleasure of experiencing great food all year round but our favorite food season is summer! Why? Outdoor festivals featuring food vendors ready to feed the masses. And while we enjoy events like the 2nd Street Festival or the YeShi Chinatown Night Market, this summer we marked our calendars and set our alarms for ODUNDE, a five-day festival with a giant one-day street market catered to African-American interests and the African diaspora. It was the experience that let us know that Summer 2022 belonged to us.
There is something about being immersed in your culture that makes you feel liberated and free. It makes you feel seen. You have the opportunity to enjoy the things that make you who you are and learn new things about where you come from – that is what ODUNDE was for us.
One of the largest African American street festivals in the nation, ODUNDE is a time to celebrate what it means to be a group of descendants of strong African roots. The festival was born from an idea conceived by Lois Fernandez and Ruth Arthur after a trip to Nigeria, West Africa, in 1972. The concept drew from African cultural heritage, specifically the Oshun Festival of the Yoruba people in Nigeria. (Odunde means “Happy New Year.”)
Each year, on the second Sunday in June, ODUNDE’s street market covers 15 city blocks and has 2 stages of live entertainment. This year ODUNDE celebrated 45 years with an eclectic mix of vendors, entertainment, music, food, jewelry, and African art that attracts people from all over the world.
Crowds come out in droves at noon for the dazzling parade across the South Street Bridge to the Schuylkill River, where the tradition is to offer fruits and flowers to the river goddess. Another big highlight for 2022: Doug E Fresh on the main stage!
One of the greatest attractions of ODUNDE is the food and we had the opportunity to explore 15 blocks of food vendors serving all sorts of African, Caribbean, and soul food dishes. The mix of authentic flavors and cultural pride each culinary artist put in their dishes made our taste buds scream with unwavering joy. We had the undeniable pleasure of enjoying the artistic ways of eateries like Remarkable Flavors where we savored dishes like their Jerk Chicken, Rice & Peas, and Oxtails with extra gravy. Traditional Caribbean dishes they aren’t, but we could taste the extra love and soul put into them for this incredible experience.
As we walked throughout the festival, we came across street vendors selling everything from traditional African sculptures to shea butters and oils of different scents. Festival attendees were so absorbed in the atmosphere and beauty of ODUNDE that the massive crowd on this hot summer day felt like a village of people who had known each other for generations.
The rich food experiences mixed with the essence of power and pride, ODUNDE 2022 fed more than our belly; it fed our souls. It reminded us why we started Eat4Beats in the first place: For the Culture and everything we stand for.
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Images in this post via ODUNDE Festival gallery.
ODUNDE is more than just an amazing festival every June — it’s a movement! Throughout the year, Odunde365.org offers a variety of cultural programs for all ages: yoga, African dance, Zumba, videography, cooking, karate and more. They also sponsor small business events, young entrepreneurs, pop-up shops and other positive community initiatives. They’ve even got a children’s book!